How to Leverage Email Marketing to Maximize Photography Sales

One of the most useful and unique features FlashFrame offers is near unlimited customization in email marketing for events. This often-overlooked feature is one of the most important factors in driving revenue to our photographers but is often overlooked since it falls outside of the traditional skill set of many of our users.

We’ve released a previous blog post explaining how to utilize our email marketing tools to create customized email templates and drip campaigns to effectively reach your audience and drive optimal sales. Today we’re going to learn how to leverage the value of cost free integrated email marketing and you exited to begin to utilizing our software to drive sales. We will review a short case study on the incremental value of email marketing and explore ways to increase revenue from your events.

The number of photos sold at paid events can vary greatly, and different photographers and event management companies use a variety of measures to determine success at an event. We’ve seen:

• Capture Rate – Participants Purchasing Photo/Total Participants
• Revenue per Participant – Total Photo Revenue/Number of Participants
• Profit per Participant – Total Photo Profit/ Number of Participants
• Holistic Sale Rate – Total Photos Sold/Total Participants

There are benefits and drawbacks to any of the above measure, but at FlashFrame we tend to focus on Holistic Sale Rate which we simply refer to as Sale Rate. This allows us to compare events agnostic of price as well as compare events where a small subset of participants purchase many photos on par with events where a larger majority of participants purchase a minimal number of photos. Lastly this measure gives us a very interesting comparison to events that distribute free photos and allows us to examine the effectiveness of marketing in both events.

Across the board we’ve seen some common dynamics at events. While photos sold and revenue vary drastically event to event, our average paid event can expect a Sales Rate of 2-10%. This means that if there are 100 people in the event you can typically expect to sell anywhere from 2 to 10 photos. There are certainly extenuating factors that play a part in sales rate including the prestige of the event, the distance of the race, the weather, the quality/variety/volume of photos and of course the marketing behind the event. If an event offers “Free” photo downloads you can typically see very incredibly high Sales Rates ranging anywhere from 25% to greater than 100%, meaning there are more downloaded photos than participants at the event.

Of course there are some events you can’t control for. As race distance increases, more participants are typically willing to purchase a photo, which goes hand in hand with prestige. For example, a destination marathon is going to have a higher sale rate than your local 5K, and often triathlons, which attract a different audience segment, will drive higher sales numbers. These events are what typically refer to as more prestigious.

Weather also plays a role. Photos of participants on a dark, dreary afternoon in the rain are going to sell at a lower rate than sunny, blue sky background photos. While it’s hard to account for these difference, we have an event that we’d like to focus on for this case study. For the past two year, FlashFrame has partnered with the One City Marathon in Newport News, Virginia to provide photography to participants through photographers who used our site as contractors to sell photos. Obviously, we know this was the same event with similar prestige, but it also had similar weather and used many of the same photographers in 2017 and 2018, making it the perfect opportunity for a case study in email marketing.

In 2017, before FlashFrame had perfected our email marketing tools we simply sent an email to all participants with a link to the album online. We followed up a week or so later with another similar email.

2017 Example Email

In 2018 after beefing up our marketing tools we changed our strategy entirely. Each email we sent was customized for the recipient, including a direct link to their individual photos and included a thumbnail image of one of their photos in the email body. We also shied away from plain text, developing catchy HTML templates that were visually pleasing and easy to navigate. These are features that are all available for free in FlashFrame’s email customization tool.

So how did our new emails perform?

Improved Performance Year over Year

In 2018 vs 2017, FlashFrame saw an 11% increase in our volume of photo sales at this event, with the largest increases in sales coming in the first 4 days after the race, indicating a much stronger response to our first participant email. An 11% increase in sales is already an incredible jump in terms of earned revenue both for FlashFrame and our photographers who were ultimately benefiting from the increased photo sales. But, we’ve excluded a single major factor, race size. In 2017 the One City Marathon had significantly more participants. As the race industry has become increasingly saturated we are beginning to see race sizes declining across the board. This is where Sales Rate comes into play, which you may recall is the number of photos sold divided by number of participants. In 2017 FlashFrame saw an 8.3% Sales Rate. This was by no means a poor performance, at the time we were happy with how the event performed, but there was room for improvement. In 2018 FlashFrame almost doubled our Sales Rate to 15.3%. Anything greater than 10% is an incredibly strong Sales Rate for an event and certainly provides strong returns for our photographers at the race.

Sales Comparison

The other major takeaway is the improved performance with each email sent. You can clearly see on days 2,10, and 18 following the race, the emails that we sent were significantly more effective. With just an upgrade to targeted drip campaign marketing and improved templates we were able to double our sales rate at this event. On a similar participant scale this would have doubled our revenue for the event with a simple change in how we shared the images.

So how can photographers and photography companies take advantage of marketing to it’s full potential? There are a few key steps.

  1. Get the participant list. Many, many photography companies fail to get access to the participant list and leave marketing up to the event. The age old adage of “if you want something done right, do it yourself” holds true here. Not only will handling the marketing allow you to be in control of how effectively your work is displayed, but it will allow you to build your own brand equity apart from the event, which is just as valuable as sales dollars.
  2. Link participants to individual photography. At FlashFrame I’ve been the expert in marketing having handled aspects of digital marketing for major brand across the US including Taco Bell, Bank of America, and Victoria’s Secret. Any platform attempting to optimize sales knows that potential buyers will drop off at every touch point, which in this case is every single page of the website. At FlashFrame we’ve already worked our hardest to shorten the purchase path for customers, simplifying the process of choosing photos and checking out to the final purchase, which already gives you a major advantage against other platforms. You can further shorten the cycle by direct linking. If you can get the participant list you can link customers directly to their photos, skipping their step of searching for their bib number and eliminating any barriers between them immediately seeing their photo and making the decision to purchase.
  3. Use Drip Campaigns. One of FlashFrame’s most underutilized features is the drip campaign. While customizing emails is helpful, drip campaigns are a totally unique feature you can use to take your sales to the next level. You can reference this blog to learn how to set one up, but we will explain the general idea. You begin by sending a single email to every single participant, linking to them to their photos and hopefully including a strong call to action to incentivize photo purchases. You can expect some of those users to purchase photos, FlashFrame will automatically track those users and remove them from your email list. After a week or so, you may want to email all of those who didn’t purchase photos again. You can simply add the next drip which will only send emails to users who didn’t purchase a photo, saving you the headache of annoying emails from customers who already purchased photos and allowing you to customize your message to an audience you know something specific about, that they’ve looked at their photos but didn’t purchase. With each drip, you’ll see diminishing returns but you’ll also continue to drive large sales bumps as customers who first neglected their photos may decide to purchase. We typically suggest 3 drips, with an optional 4th as a final call to action such as “Last chance to purchase photos”

So back to the One City Marathon case study. By utilizing these marketing tools we were able to nearly double our Sales Rate and drive a greater volume of sales from an event with declining attendance.

We understand that most of our users would label themselves as photographers but to truly become driving forces in the increasingly competitive race photography space you need to innovate. FlashFrame is pleased to give you the tools to market your work above and beyond both your competitors and your baseline. If you’d ever like to discuss options or how to increase sales at your event feel free to contact us through our support page at and we’ll be happy to set up a consultation time with you. Good luck and keep up the amazing photos.

<3 Nate